Intended for healthcare professionals

Rapid response to:


Adverse effects of statins

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 15 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3306

Rapid Response:

Re: Adverse effects of statins

Muscular adverse effects are very common with statins

The 2011 Cochrane review of statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease reported a risk ratio of 1.03 for muscle pain, i.e. 3% more patients developed muscle pain on drug than on placebo (1). However, industry-funded randomised trials are notoriously unreliable when it comes to the harms of drugs (2). A publicly-funded randomised trial from 2012 that studied the impact of statins on energy and exertional fatigue got results that could be interpreted as 20% of the men and 40% of the women experiencing a worsening in either energy or exertional fatigue (3).

I therefore wonder why Sir Rory Collins has pressured the BMJ in a most unacademic fashion for having published a paper that reported a similar incidence of harms based on a cohort study (4). He has even called for a retraction of the paper, just like drug companies have often done when a paper appeared that could threaten their sales (2). Collins and his colleagues publish meta-analyses based on company data to which no one else has access because of the confidentiality clauses Collins and colleagues have accepted.

I believe science ceases to exist when no one else than those who have conflicts of interest are allowed to see the data.

1. Taylor F, Huffman MD, Macedo AF, Moore THM, Burke M, Davey Smith G, et al. Statins for the primary prevention of cardiovascular disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2013;1:CD004816.

2. Gøtzsche PC. Deadly medicines and organised crime: How big pharma has corrupted health care. London: Radcliffe Publishing, 2013.

3. Golomb BA, Evans MA, Dimsdale JE, et al. Effects of statins on energy and fatigue with exertion: results from a randomized controlled trial. Arch Intern Med. 2012; 172: 1180–2.

4. Abramson JD, Rosenberg HD, Jewell N, Wright JM. Should people at low risk of cardiovascular disease take a statin? BMJ 2013;347:f6123.

Competing interests: No competing interests

21 May 2014
Peter C Gøtzsche
Nordic Cochrane Centre